This is a continuation of my story about my internship, at Farm Sanctuary’s Watkins Glen shelter. Previous posts in this series can be found here (1,2,3,4,5). Last week I talked about Dean-O; this week I would like to tell you about another kindhearted rooster, and the blind turkey he cared for.
There were some residents at the shelter who I felt a deep connection with, despite them not being particularly fond of interacting with humans. Some of these animals had such a deep connection to each other that I fell in love with them, even though they wanted little to do with me. There was one pair whose relationship had an especially deep impact on me. Their names were Pearl and Jeremiah.
Pearl was an elderly, blind, turkey, and Jeremiah was a much younger rooster, who seemed to be in quite good health. Pearl was very skittish around people, and required special food because it was difficult to convince her to eat. They were fed food pellets, but Pearl’s had to be soaked and turned into mash, so she could eat them. Still, she would often eat a few bites and then leave the rest behind.
Depending on who was feeding her that day, the staff and interns would often mix other things into her food, to make it more enticing. When I had the job of feeding Pearl and Jeremiah, I would always mix yams into Pearl’s food, because I had noticed that appeared to be the flavor she enjoyed most. Even so, she frequently seemed to become confused and would peck at an empty spot in her bowl, while the other side was still full, and eventually give up and walk away. So, I started making a point to set aside extra time to spend with Pearl. I began holding her bowl for her while she ate, and turning it when one section became empty. Sometimes she would still wander off, so I would tick my fingernail on the bowl, to get her attention. Most of the time, this method managed to get her to eat an entire bowl, which was very rare for her.
While all of this was going on, Jeremiah had his own bowl of regular, dry, food pellets. He was much stronger and healthier than Pearl, not to mention the fact that he had full use of his eyesight. He easily could have taken the far superior food from her. When I sat with Pearl, and coaxed her into finishing her food, he would stand guard, carefully watching me to make sure I wasn’t harming her. Even on the days when I didn’t sit with her though, he would never crowd her, or even try to share her food. He would watch her, from a close distance, as she pecked at her mash, seldom even looking at his own food. Once she had finished, and retired to the other side of their enclosure, he would sometimes finish what was left of her food, but never if there was even a hint that she might still want it. I started giving him some of Pearl’s food in his own bowl, as a reward for being such a good protector, but he still rarely touched it, until she had finished with hers.
It was just such a beautiful thing to me, the way this rooster developed such a sense of loyalty to a creature of a different species, who was old and frail, and barely even aware of his presence. I would often pet Pearl’s feathers, while I fed her, but I was never able to touch Jeremiah. He would always back away from me, when I entered the enclosure. Still, he is one of the animals I think of most fondly, when I look back on my time at Farm Sanctuary, because of his pure, selfless devotion to Pearl.
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